The word “SUSTAINABILITY” comes up when we think or talk about things that lasts.
It is defined as: “The ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level; to be upheld or defended. So when we think about helping organizations to LAST, we talk of Organizational Sustainability. What does this mean?
This is the ability of an organization to withstand external and internal issues as they consistently deliver their goods or services to the satisfaction of their customers. Typical examples of some sustainable companies include Adidas AG, Accenture Plc, Nestle SA, Unilever Plc and so on. Although there is a misconception that organizational sustainability directly means financial sustainability because when an organization becomes unsustainable, the symptoms of that problem show up in the finances but the survival of an organization depends on much more than effectively managing the organization’s finances. There are some primary elements that if managed well, will ensure the sustainability of the organization. Some of these elements include;
Strong Leadership: this is so key because without it there will be no vision, no brand identity, no values, no systems put in place and no accountability. There will also be no objectives, no evaluation, no team building or development and no operational plan. To build strong leaders, there should be a focus on first of all identifying those talents in top management, purposeful training to increase their competence, right mentoring or coaching, availability of resources among others. This element show that an investment in leadership will have a ripple and sustainable effect in the organization as a whole.
Organizational Culture: the culture of any organization is deeply important that without one an organization cannot be sustainable in the 21st century. It is much more than just what is written down but more of what we give out, how we do things and what it feels like to work in your organization. It is so key that in the past, we had job seekers looking for a place that would pay them well and give them good benefits but now they are looking for organizations that have great cultures. Your company needs to offer individuals a sense of belonging and an understanding of the WHY of what they do to accomplish something remarkable. This element is tied to the first one because Strong Leadership is the backbone of the cultural dynamics of any organization. Hence if you want your organization to last, invest in your leaders, who will in turn drive a sustainable organizational culture.
Product and Resources Sustainability: without high-quality products or services your customers’ and clients’ patronage will eventually decline as will profit. That’s why it’s so important to be intentional about offering quality products or services which is directly linked to the quality of your personnel. This is one major resource that cannot be overlooked because if your personnel do not fully understand their jobs or are not resourced to do their jobs, then your products, services will be not be as effective as they ought to be. Be sure personnel are fully trained and supervised well. There can be no organizational sustainability without an effective resource and quality outputs.
Financial Sustainability: this is also very key because if the above three elements are not effectively managed then there will be a huge financial crisis which can hinder the sustainability of an organization. According to McNamara, there are two financial practices you should be doing regardless of whether you have enough money or not, and they include:
- Achieving a financial reserve — obviously this is done over time and before a financial crisis occurs.
- Doing contingency planning — plan for what will happen if you get 10% less money than planned for the upcoming year and for what will happen if you get 30% less.
Other elements include, Long-range Strategic Plan, Annual Operational Plan, Risk Management plan, a commitment to corporate social responsibility, among others
Succinctly, for your organization to become more adaptable and responsive in spite of the uncertainty of the future, a deep commitment to ensuring these elements mentioned above are effectively addressed is needed.